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Life with Rent (movie)
Member Name: rauolzhou
Disadvantages: some may be not used to the style
Ten years ago, Jonathan Larson hit the theater with his only but also breath-taking piece: Rent. Although he indicated all he wanted was presenting something fit young growing up with Coco-cola and MTV, the result turned out to be astonishing. It arose fire from off-Broadway to Nederland Theater, and ended up with 4 TONY awards and 1 Pulitzer. During Christmas of 2005, Rent led its way toward the screen to bring its glory to people outside the theater.
Modern “La Boheme” as it is called; Rent tells the story of a group of struggling artists in East Greenwich, New York. As the non-mainstream group, they face all kinds of problems beyond ours: HIV, drug, poverty and so on. But in the story those issues don’t serve as eye-catching stuff for they are not emphasized as much as some may expects, nor they are condemned as they are in those moral clichés. All it focuses on is life issues, from which some. As a “bohemian” himself, Larson (playwright, lyricist and composer of Rent) adapted personal experience into his work. He delivers a vivid definition of modern bohemian: (clearly announced in “La vie Bohemian”) away from the routine of live (like so-called comfortable life of mid-class), pursuing their dream despite of the consequential poverty and suffering. It is their value that is non-mainstream and van ward, not that they are homosexual or suffer from HIV. To some degree, their passion and ideal inspire something within us, something that may be missing but still cherished. What we have in common pushes us into it over and over again, even if ten years later stuff used to be sensitive is no longer a stunt. Most of the incidents in the show coming from reality are so convincing that touching truth alone can fade those emotional stirring, dramatic but obviously fake scene and dialogue.
What’s more, his brilliant music and lyrics color up the realistic story. The rock style dynamic music is filled with energy and goes well the comparatively anti-traditional characters perfectly. It seizes the audience since the flaming opening number “Rent”, which presents the condition those bohemians are in and brings all of us into the mood. Similarly, “Today for you”, “Out Tonight”, “La Vie Bohemian”, “Living in America” and etc, all express how they live. No matter joy or sorrow, gain or loss, the songs announce that they love the way it is (even the way Angle dies is so embellished), which symbolize the theme, aim and value of those artists, so different from ours but so lively that we could resist the enchantment. If you are not a spiritual pioneer, there is something for you too. Soulful whisper and confiding from numbers like “Life Support”, “I should Tell You”, “Without You” call also warm your heart with their emotional convulsion even though we may has become indifferent towards the instigative and over-embellished mage shock from like “Miss Saigon”. Though in a rock tongue, Larson’s music doesn’t fade in front of those symphony or opera-inclined pieces. Without strict musical construction and multi-vocal-part arias, it hit you heart and soul because of sincere notes full of expression and love. The fierce confrontation in the antistrophic “No Day but Today” can be regarded a greeting towards “Tonight”, and self-questioning “One Song Glory” portrays touching passion that could soften the rock heart. And you can see the moving scene throughout the show. The common issue for everyone like love, support and care remain even if they behave so differently or anti-traditionally. The stuff that seems almost two different peaks mixed perfectly in the musical elements. All together it shakes the tenderest part of our heart.
Though performing “Season of Love” on stage is hardly an attractive start and even made me suspicious that movie may have ruined the catching and avant-grade mood, fortunately the portray of “Rent” released me. The whole adaptation is somehow faithful to the stage version with some changes in the latter part (it seems a tradition that they change some clues in act 2 from Chicago, Phantom to now Rent). The soul of Larson’s lesson remains, for which the changes in decoration don’t affect the movie so adversely. Anyway, we couldn’t expect a revival of the abstract vision on screen even though it fascinates on stage but doesn’t work for movie. Actually, it is natural to abandon some dialogue-type songs. Besides, some numbers early in the movie give us a wonderful sample to do a musical movie: how to maintain make it suitable on screen without missing its inherence. Take the number “Rent” as an example, the rock concert-style montage of streets, buildings in East Village and the bohemians’ protection of eviction is really a good interpretation to express their anger and value within the songs. Wise flashback in “One Song Glory” helps to build up Roger’s character in a more vivid way. Cunning lighting the candle scene, warm life support, I’ll cover you and etc all indicate the wisdom from the creative team. The rest parts are similar to the stage version, which may be not so fresh (as some said it is too conservative) but serve the movie quite well. It is the latter part that is a little disappointing. Right from silent conflict between Roger and Mimi, it falls into cliché of some soap MTV sometimes. “Without You” as the touching turning point in the stage version is translated as a light interlude. The meaningful breaking up, that implies complicated feeling hidden in the mind and in which Larson also achieve the depth of Puccini’s masterpiece, is simplified sharply. In the movie, Roger’s motivation is explained as Mimi’s falling back on drug again. This also affects “What you own”, in which the roles just wonder around without given a clue from the previous scene. As a result the section is little more than scenery footage of Santa Fe. Even though the final part gets to the lesson again, however, the loss can hardly regain. After considering the shining point and drawback, one conclusion, as members of creative team for the movie version, director Chris Columbus and screenplay Stephen Chbosky writer have shown their respect towards Larson. All their jobs are somehow good as for a movie.
Having most the original cast of the show, who are also the soul for the lessons, in the movie version is what all rent heads have to be grateful for most. After seeing the somehow under qualified cast in phantom, present of six majors from the opening cast guarantee a wonderful performance for the movie, though some may complain about lack of novelty. Those who have enjoyed the show in 1996 could see how could performers improve in ten years. Adam Pascal, defining Roger to a high degree in the opening show, surprises us again with his incredible energy in the movie. He could be heart-breaking since “One Song Glory” begins, in “I should Tell You”. His control over infirm tongue improves so much that he could express Roger’s weak side much better, which brings more to the character. Above all, he has done a wonderful job suitable for the movie. As an actor on stage, his expression isn’t over-embellished at all. Those details like his affection towards Mimi in “Out Tonight”, which he lacked in stage version, is wonderfully achieved. As a result, the character becomes incredibly lifelike. Rosario Dawson serves well as a non-original Mimi: sexy, full of livingness and passion, a wonderful voice, too. Only some details will sell her weakness (which doesn’t matter that much), such as a little tame “Out Tonight”. But the flavorless “Without You” really is a bug, which prevents her Mimi becoming great. Anthony Rapp’s Mark couldn’t serve as a narrator since it is in the movie, so his main task is restricted in the role himself, the one without much conflict and plot. He is fine except some over-dramatic movements that don’t matter a lot since in singing scene. The gay couple by Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia heat up more during the years, “I’ll Cover You” and Angle’s death do more than just move you into tears. Their love and support is the fireplace for all in a room without heat. Idina Menzel is still the passionate Maureen ever. Tracie Thoms catches me even though she is not from the stage version, ample tension from her voice doesn’t fade a little when facing the forceful Idina. “Take Me or Leave Me” present flame within their impetuous heart and makes a clear definition of their unruly attitude and echoes “La vie Bohemian” in the earlier part. The cast-director is really appreciative for he chooses what is right for the role other than those choices for commercial purpose in recent production. And his job is a guarantee of the performance indeed.
The city is captured true life as it ought to be in a movie: well-revived East Village, disordered rooms is vivid. As for costume there is limited room for innovation. Following the style of the stage version definitely splits the difference. Maybe Roger’s hair seems too conservative and traditional for a former rock-star. Thanks to Stephen Goldblatt, the cinematographer who understands the lesson heart and soul, those scenes interpret the theme of the abstract set on stage perfectly.
Among the wave of musical movies, Rent is no doubt an outstanding piece. What it presents is much more than “fun” in pieces like phantom. I don’t deny that Rent gains nothing like Oscar or Globe. But these facts didn’t kill the movie, or the show. Anyway, awards aren’t almighty God. In a winter evening, when we are moved by the story, passionate about the score and understand what is hidden between the lines, what are these awards for?
Summary: a great lesson from Larson
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